It might feel a little too cold to venture into the garden in the depth of winter, but February is the perfect month to undertake some garden maintenance that will help prepare for spring.
So, wrap up warmly and head out into your green space and get busy with some crucial gardening jobs to get ahead of the game as gardens prepare to come to life again.
Sow your tomato seeds
Growing your own tomatoes from seed is a simple and extremely rewarding task and February is the ideal time to sow tomato seeds if you have a greenhouse or even a warm, sunny window ledge.
To get started, fill a small pot with compost and water the soil liberally, before sowing four or five seeds on the surface. Place in your greenhouse or propagator – or if growing indoors cover with clear plastic and leave on a warm windowsill.
Seedlings should appear within fourteen days, at which point you can uncover the plants and move them to individual pots, watering regularly.
Prepare your borders
February is the best time to cut away last season’s dead perennials and remove any weeds or debris from borders.
Treat your flower beds to a thick mulch which will help to suppress weeds, but don’t cover any protruding bulb shoots, as this will stop warming sunlight from reaching them and could cause them to rot.
Install a bird box
National Nestbox Week takes place from 14th February, so why not encourage birds into your garden with the installation of a bird box.
Garden birds will soon be building nests and looking for safe places to hatch their chicks. Half-term is approaching and this is a great gardening opportunity to get the kids involved and take part in building nest boxes for robins, wrens and other birds.
Place your bird box in a safe location, and if possible, shelter it with surrounding trees or point the entrance hole towards the northeast as this will help to protect the interior from harsh rain and wind.
Why not install a small camera inside or close to your bird box to enjoy a front-row view of nesting birds and baby chicks from the comfort of your armchair!
Tidy up the evergreens and ornamental grasses
Late February is the best time to cut back any evergreen foliage to encourage new growth. The same is true with ornamental grasses which can be trimmed right back to within six inches from the ground, ready for healthy regrowth in the spring months.
Evergreens are very low maintenance but will benefit from a little TLC in the late winter. Treat your evergreens to a fertilising treatment to supplement the soil for sturdy growth. Try Empathy After Plant Evergreen to stimulate root growth and deliver nutrients.
Clean, repair and service your lawnmower
While it’s not quite time to start cutting the grass, there is nothing more frustrating than digging out the petrol mower from the back of the shed only to find it’s dirty and in need of repair.
Now is a good time to give your mower a thorough clean and mini service in preparation for spring. Always remember to remove the spark plug from the machine before you begin any maintenance, to prevent it from starting up unexpectedly.
To perform a basic mower service, take out the spark plugs to look for signs of dirt and give them a wipe, before checking the oil levels (there will be a dipstick to help you). Make sure the oil level is reaching the required level and top up if necessary.
It’s also a good idea to change the air filter before using the mower regularly – consult the user manual to see which is the right one for your model. They are fairly cheap to replace and will ensure a spring and summer of maintenance-free mowing.
If you are not confident in stripping back your lawnmower, there are many reputable servicing companies across the country that will be able to perform a lawnmower service for you.
Mulch does amazing things to a garden. A liberal helping of good quality mulch can help to conserve water and aid the penetration of rain deep into the soil in winter months. A covering of mulch in February will help to inhibit weed growth, deter pests and insects and protect delicate plant roots from cold temperatures.
To get the best from your mulch, apply in a layer of 5cm thickness over moist soil, but avoid laying mulch on frozen ground as it will be less effective.
Begin a lawn care routine
Now is the time to fix any divots or raised areas in your lawn. Using a spade, dig into the affected area using the blade to make an ‘H’ shape then carefully lift back the turf and remove any excess earth before placing the turf carefully back together. If it is a hollow that needs to be filled, then simply add more soil before replacing the turf.
If your lawn is prone to moss, rake it over to remove the worst and treat the area with a moss killer. Remove any leaves and debris that has built up over the winter months to prevent them from smothering and weakening delicate blades of grass.
Purchase your pots, seeds and tools
February always feels like a real turning point in the garden. It may still be chilly outdoors, but the nights are getting lighter and there are encouraging signs of spring starting to appear.
But, even if the weather is not kind enough to get out in the garden this February, you can still get your gardening fix by creating a gardening plan, listing all the plants you want to purchase in the better weather and taking a visit to the local garden centre to buy any pots, compost and tools you will need ready for springtime.